Barcelona’s Sagrada Família

Posted on December 20, 2015. Filed under: Spain, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , |

Our first approach through a little park was not a surprise as we were eagerly looking for the façade to come into view…

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But the magnificence was already apparent.  Begun in 1882, and designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926), the building is still under construction.  Cranes are busy all over the place.  And when we got closer we could see the line that stretched all around the entire city block on which the building sits.

In my view, it is foolish to stand in that line, wasting a whole day of your vacation!  We learned our lesson at Park Güell from 2 days prior.  After that bad experience of waiting too long to get in, I came back to our apartment to research buying tickets online.  I was glad I did because the wait was 2 days for online tickets!  It did make me a little nervous because I had never done this before and I had no way to print out the tickets I bought.  I found out this is unnecessary as they will scan your phone at the entrance and you are on your way.  We did have to find the proper entrance for this, but it wasn’t too hard to do that and we had arrived plenty early for our entry time slot so we weren’t too bothered.  We bought tickets for entry and for the elevator up the towers.  So, visiting this cathedral went off without a hitch for us.

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I am putting a lot of photos in this post, but I have to just accept that they are so inadequate.  I have been in a lot of European cathedrals, all magnificent in their own way, but this place actually took my breath away when I entered.  It seemed otherworldly to me, and so special, yes, I would say holy.  Holy means set apart and completely unique.  These are perfect descriptions of this space.

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The rainbow windows and soaring, plant-like pillars created these otherworldly effects.

Don’t miss the museum in the basement showing how the building was designed.  You can look into the workshop where they are still carving stone too.

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After this, the bus back home for fresh fish from the market for dinner.  What a great day!

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Casa Batlló, Barcelona

Posted on December 8, 2015. Filed under: Spain, Travel | Tags: , , , , |

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We passed by on the bus in the morning.  The line outside snaked around and wasn’t moving at all.  I made a mental note to check on it when we passed on our return because, of course, we had to see  Casa Batlló, one of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpiece apartment buildings from 1904.

This is another time to buy tickets online, but, happily we discovered that late in the afternoon the line disappears and you can waltz right in (at least in November.)  So we squeezed an audio tour in at the end of our day.  Of course this place is more magnificent in person than any pictures I’d ever seen of it.

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Whenever we tour historic homes I love to imagine living there.  This apartment was so unusual it was a little hard to do.  It would have been quite an oddball in its day.

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And yet, the attention to things like light and airflow would have made it more comfortable than most dwellings.

 
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And the beautiful lines, colors and details are everywhere.  Door handles are molded from human hands and even the servants’ quarters and roof are part of the design.
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This was a great way to close out our long day of Antoni Gaudí’s work.

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Barcelona Food Fair

Posted on July 9, 2015. Filed under: Just Fun, Spain | Tags: , , , , , , |

Spain food fest 2Olives!  Oh my!  On our first day in Barcelona we headed out on foot to see what we could see.  Almost right away we ran into a festive food fair with everything from artisanal cheeses and beers to huge crusty loaves of bread to this vendor of Spanish olive varietals.  I must admit I didn’t even know that olives came in orange!  For €1 we received the tumbler of olives with the toothpick AND a small tin of Malden salt.  Each type had a distinct flavor and texture.  What fun!

Before we were through we also had a fruit smoothie made only of fruit, luscious cheesecake without a crust (what a great idea), and locally produced beers.

Ok, although crowded, we were beginning to settle into Barcelona!

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Eating in Barcelona

Posted on June 26, 2015. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Spain Tapas 1Tapas in Barcelona are definitely designed for the tourists.  Everything has a toothpick in it.  Grab a plate take what you want, save the toothpicks.  When finished take the plate with the toothpicks back and they charge you accordingly.  It’s a good system, the bites are interesting and not too expensive, if a little contrived, everything on top of a piece of white bread.  Madrid’s tapas bars were definitely less polished, more like actual little local joints where each specialized in something special and delectable.  Barcelona’s tapas were pretty much the same no matter which place we chose.

Our first day or 2 we did quite a bit of eating at these places.  But we were hungry for some authenticity.  And we had a whole kitchen back at the apartment!  We started scoping out markets.  Of course we went to La Boqueria on las ramblas, probably the most famous market in Barcelona.  We took the guidebook’s advice and avoided the sellers near the entrance to get deep into the place and find the less tourist-oriented merchants.

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We found the discount-fishmonger there.  If you would buy the whole piece of whatever fish he had you would get an amazing price!  It took a bit of stretching my knowledge of Spanish to get this understanding, but once my brain connected the dots we cashed in.  So for 2 nights in a row we went and bought the whole hunk of tuna the guy had.  For about $20 we gorged on fresh tuna for several meals!  It was a fun find.

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Bullet Train to Barcelona!

Posted on June 23, 2015. Filed under: Just Fun, Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , |

We sprung for first class from Madrid to Barcelona on the high-speed AVEBullettrainbarcelona

train.  For the extra $20 or so we had a little plusher seats and our own electrical outlets to recharge our devices.  Since we don’t fly first class it seemed like an affordable treat.  We seemed to fly to Barcelona from Madrid, making the trip in about 2.5 hours at right near 200 mph!  It was truly exhilarating to watch the Spanish countryside whizzing by.  It was a much different view than we had just had of the big city.

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When we arrived and settled into our apartment we headed out for tapas.  We were quick to discover Barcelona is very different than Madrid.  It was the end of October and the place was jammed packed with tourists.  This was a little overwhelming to us.  We purposely travel off-season or almost off-season to try to avoid the crowds.  I wonder if Barcelona ever really has such a time.

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Museo Sorolla, Madrid

Posted on March 3, 2015. Filed under: Art, Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Sorollahouse2On our last full day in Madrid we hiked from our apartment near the Prado Museum to the Museo Sorolla.  It took awhile and we had to ask directions from a parking maid as we got closer.  She was amazingly helpful and friendly.  She spoke almost no English so we limped along in my rusty Spanish.  She pulled out extra paper from her little ticket machine, turned it over, and drew a map!  After that we got there with almost no trouble.  It’s tricky because the building is the former home and studio of 20th-century painter Joaquin Sorolla (1862-1923) and so it is located right in the middle of a block in a residential section of Madrid.

This, of course, makes it very interesting.  I always like to have a walk amid the places the real people of a place live.  This lovely old home/studio was designed to the artist’s specifications with a huge ceiling of skylights in the studio.  There is nothing, afterall, better than natural light for just about any kind of work, but especially for artwork.  This whole little jaunt was a serendipitous affair.  We saw Sorolla’s masterpiece of boys playing in the ocean surf at the Prado.  Then we discovered this museum existed here and we decided to go!  Often, these jaunts make for the best travel memories/experiences.

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It was wonderful to see so many of his works as well as the home in almost the same condition as when he lived here complete with Tiffany chandelier, sculpture and jars of his paintbrushes.  The property became a museum right after Sorolla’s widow’s death so it is very untouched.  And the tiny garden is as beautiful as the building itself.

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I was most fascinated by how he captured light and water in these paintings.  There is also a small alcove in the studio where lots and lots of tiny paintings are displayed.  I really wanted to come home and experiment with tiny paintings after seeing this.  It’s still on the list, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

 

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Art in Madrid’s Streets

Posted on February 17, 2015. Filed under: Art, Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

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Yes, you are just walking along in Madrid and wham!  There happens to be some monumental piece of art right there.  Why not put an enormous lizard made out of CDs on the side of a building?  I wonder how they talked the people in those rooms to give up their windows.  Or why not install a bronze frog the size of a small house on the sidewalk? Madrid street art 2

Madrid street art 3Here we are on Calle del Arenal, a huge pedestrian corridor that hosts many live art performances.  Madrid loses its stuffy capital city ambiance when you walk the streets and observe the creativity that permeates this place.

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Madrid’s Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

Posted on December 13, 2014. Filed under: Art, Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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One reason we wanted to go to Madrid was for the outstanding art museums.  We started with the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía,  an old hospital recycled as an art museum.  Just walking around the environment was very interesting; it’s hard to believe it was still in use in the 1960s as it seems very ancient.  This is where Picasso’s Guernica is housed.    They were deadly serious about not letting anyone take a picture of it as the no picture policy actually starts several rooms before the Guernica room.  Follow the link to see the image and learn about its history.  It is fascinating.  One has to see this iconic and world-famous painting in person to really appreciate it fully.  It really made an impact, I must say.  We had to wait for the Japanese tour bus to clear out as they monopolized the whole room for a time, but then we could get close and take it all in.  It is a painting which is difficult to view without emotion because it depicts the ravages of war in such an abstract way and in such an enormous size that it feels overwhelming.  One of the most interesting features of the room is along the back wall where there is a display of photos taken by Picasso’s girlfriend at the time he was painting it.  It shows his process, to a degree, as he changed his mind about several elements and it is fun to compare the photos to the finished painting.

This museum also houses some of the most famous Dali paintings, a beautiful courtyard with a Calder stabile and a covered atrium between the museum and library with the enormous Lichtenstein, “Brushstroke.”

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Towards the end of our visit we got a little tired and decided to “interact” with the art:

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Bill decided to get into “Shout No. 7” by Antonio Saura, and I liked the way my outfit complimented Jose Guerrero’s “Green Encounter.”

DSC06881Lastly we enjoyed the Richard Serra “Equal – Parallel:  Guernica – Bengazi” which are just huge hunks of iron so indestructible they don’t have guards anywhere near them!

What a great first day in Madrid!  Some tapas and beers were definitely in order after all this art fun.

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Tapas in Madrid

Posted on November 23, 2014. Filed under: Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

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A real delight in Madrid is to drop into any bar and order a drink.  Before you know it a small plate of something gets delivered as well.  It is the little freebie each place sends you as a little thank you for stopping in and also maybe a little advertising of the food available on the menu.

DSC06896Some places offered just a few little bullet-shaped crackers and chorizo sausage slices.  This seemed the default tapa, offered when the good stuff wasn’t ready yet, or perhaps at the less food-oriented places.  Several places gave us this standard.  But many others had elaborate little plates with pasta and interesting sauces or baccalao salt cod deep fried and luscious or something with a variety of silky beans with toast.  We often handled lunch easily this way by hopping from bar to bar and sampling the tapa of the day at each.  One way I kept my head about me with the alcohol was to have the Spanish specialty of beer cut in half with lemonade.  I love this light, refreshing drink!

Madrid’s little tapas bars are just a delight.  The area right near the Prado, where we stayed, is full of fun and friendly little joints in which to poke around.  If you find yourself there make time for it.

 

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